In 2017, I decided to learn Russian. I began the Russian course on Duolingo and watched grammar videos on YouTube. Whilst I learnt the Cryllic alphabet easily, it took nearly six years until I could mutter some sentences, and this was only after incorporating other apps and educational materials. (Granted, learning Russian was on and off during this time!) The problem with my approach is a lack of revision. I’d try to wiz through many videos and modules in a short time frame without digesting the content. This ultimately proved problematic. Whilst immersion, grammar and vocabulary are crucial to learning Russian, so is repetition. In this article, I will articulate the many benefits relating to repetition, with a focus on the Russian language.
Repetition Helps With Grammar
A favourite tool for language-learning by many are apps, such as Duolingo, Babbel (highly recommend*) and Drops. These offer a ‘gamified’ experience of language-learning and usually emphasise spaced repetition, flashcards and vocabulary, situational context and grammar. Naturally, these apps can provoke controversy. This is mainly due to the outrageous claims associated with some, promising quick fluency with little effort. Yet there’s a crucial, almost unglamorous aspect of language-learning apps: learners must repeat modules to reach the next level. Our brains require constant practice and exposure to maintain information. Therefore, language learners should retake modules over and over again to ensure retention. This tip is certainly potent for grammar. Russian verbs change depending on the subject in six different forms. The subject pronouns and any plurals complicate this further. Babbel is great here. For the Russian newcomer, there are many exercises which drill these grammatical principles down.
Unfortunately, there’s negativity in language-learning spaces towards grammar. According to some ‘gurus’, grammar will not help in conversations with native speakers. This is partially true. However, learning grammar can clarify your meaning and will avoid future confusion. It’s also prudent to not allow grammar to reign over your language-learning. Other aspects matter: pronunciation, spelling, conversational skills and immersion. That’s why language learners must find the ideal balance between only-grammar and no-grammar. My ideal method is repeating grammar tasks on apps like Babbel. After doing this for a month, my translation skills from Russian to English have vastly improved. Repetition through grammar has resulted in a richer understanding of the Russian language, too.
Repetition Helps With Context
The Russian word for war is война. It’s ingrained in my memory due to continuous exposure. I first discovered this word while researching Leo Tolstoy. Then, I watched documentaries with Russian language subtitles, which drilled words further into my mind. Repeated exposure amplified this, from reading Twitter comments (in Russian) to looking at newspaper archives online from the State Library of Russia. Context helps. Words may exist on their own, sure, but can be used in multiple ways. That’s why language learners should use a diverse range of educational content, such as: apps, videos, reading, conversations with native speakers, textbooks and flashcards.
This is all possible because I gave myself many opportunities to learn this word. Another benefit from context is learning preferable ways to express certain sentiments and observations. The Russian word for light is свет however, this is more helpful in describing ‘glows’ than, say, someone’s (lack of) intelligence. English-speakers learn early to not abuse lists of antonyms and synonyms. There is a pressing danger in using a strange word to describe an experience. Luckily, context helps learners avoid this.
Repetition Can Help With Mastery
There is nothing wrong with wanting fluency. However, a long journey awaits: fluency is not achieved with ease. By repeating language-learning tasks, you can master certain words and phrases. This is particularly true for audio and visual content. I’m quite fond of rewatching videos from the Easy Russian channel, which I highly recommend.
This is also good for picking up on accents and pronunciation specifics. With this in mind, view repetition as crucial to your overall goal in fluency. It helps to reread text or revisit old learning materials. However, language learners must have the courage to try new content and to challenge themselves. Whilst I support methods in repetition, it is vital for those learning languages, especially Russian, to seek richer and more complex content.
I hope to have successfully argued the merits of repetition. Far from a dreaded tool, repetition can develop your language-learning journey.
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